10 Alternatives to Columbus Day Celebrated Around the Country

Columbus Day has a complicated history, and many cities have recently voted to rename the annual holiday that falls the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day, honoring the native cultures that existed in North America long before Columbus arrived in 1492 and who were decimated by European colonization. In lieu of heading to a Columbus Day parade, consider these 10 alternative celebrations taking place across the country.

1. TEACH-IN AND FRIENDSHIP DANCE // BOULDER, COLORADO

gathering in a park
iStock

The White Horse Creek Council, a Denver-based preservation society for indigenous culture, is hosting a Mini Pow Wow, Teach-In and Friendship Dance at Boulder’s Central Park Bandshell. The October 9 event will include traditional dances with performances from the award-winning Plenty Wolf Singers. Visitors will also get a chance to learn a circle and friendship band and take in an oral retelling of Boulder's history from a Lakota elder.

2. INDIGENOUS PEOPLES WEEK // SEATTLE

Seattle
iStock

While other cities dedicate a day to honoring their Native American culture and history, Seattle sets aside an entire week, put on by groups like the Daybreak Star Indian Culture Center, the Seattle Indian Health Board, and local community colleges and universities. On October 9, there will be a march to City Hall, canning demonstrations, performances from Tahitian and Alaskan Native Dancers, guest speakers, and more.

3. NATIVE AMERICAN DAY AT THE CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL // CRAZY HORSE, SOUTH DAKOTA

Crazy Horse Memorial
The Crazy Horse Memorial is located in South Dakota's Black Hills.
Jerry and Pat Donaho, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

South Dakota has celebrated Native American Day on the second Monday in October since 1990. It was the only state to vote not to observe Columbus Day state-wide until Vermont made the switch to Indigenous Peoples Day in 2017. The first celebration of the holiday was held at Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills, a monument to the Lakota leader who defeated General George Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. The memorial still hosts an annual celebration with performances from Native American dancers, singers, artists, and storytellers. Visitors also receive a free buffalo stew lunch.

4. LIFE BEFORE COLUMBUS FESTIVAL // LOS ANGELES

Indigenous Peoples Day celebration in Los Angeles
A girl participates in an event celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles on October 8, 2017.
David McNew / Stringer/ Getty Images

Los Angeles voted to make Indigenous Peoples Day a city-wide holiday for the first time in 2017, but organizations in the city had already been observing it before the official designation. The Gabrielino Tongva Springs Foundation—a cultural center and museum for the Gabrielino/Tongva Indians native to the Los Angeles Basin area—holds an annual Life Before Columbus festival at Kuruvungna Springs, a California historical landmark. The arts festival features traditional singers and dancers, Native American foods, and workshops and exhibitions on crafting items like reed baskets and traditional Native toys.

5. RETHINKING COLUMBUS DAY // RANDALL'S ISLAND, NEW YORK CITY

Randall's Island
Randall's Island
iStock

Each year, the Redhawk Native American Arts Council throws a free celebration on New York City’s Randall’s Island for Indigenous Peoples Day. The two-day event includes an overnight camp out, a sunrise ceremony, spoken word performances, guest talks from activists and cultural groups, and more. The 2017 festival is dedicated to honoring water protectors, according to the event page.

6. INDIGENOUS PEOPLE'S DAY MUSIC & ART SHOWCASE // SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA

Saint Paul Minnesota
Saint Paul, Minnesota
iStock

Electric Machete Studios, an art gallery in Saint Paul, is throwing its 14th-annual concert series on October 12. Formerly called the Anti-Columbus Day Concert, it was founded to use “hip hop and community action to raise awareness around the effects of colonization on communities of color and celebrate indigenous culture through art and music.” There will be more than eight musical performers throughout the evening.

7. SANTA FE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY CELEBRATION // SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO

2017 Santa Fe Indian Market
The 2017 Santa Fe Indian Market, located in the historic Santa Fe Plaza
iStock

New Mexico, home to 23 different Native American tribes, voted in 2016 to begin recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day. The central Santa Fe Plaza will play host to an all-day celebration on October 9 as well as weekend dance performances. The Monday festivities include morning flute and drum songs and 10 different dances throughout the day.

8. DECOLONIZATION CELEBRATION // ASHLAND, OREGON

Ashland Oregon
Ashland, Oregon

In honor of Ashland’s inaugural Indigenous Peoples Day, groups like Southern Oregon University (SOU), the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and a local grassroots organization called the Red Earth Descendants are holding events like a salmon bake social, a drama workshop, and a performance of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s first play by a Native American writer, which turns the Bard’s Measure for Measure into a Western exploring the legacy of Indian boarding schools.

9. TULSA NATIVE AMERICAN DAY CELEBRATION // TULSA, OKLAHOMA

Tulsa, Oklahoma
Tulsa, Oklahoma
iStock

Tulsa’s first-annual Native American Day celebration will be held in the city’s downtown arts district. The inter-tribal gathering will include a meet and greet, reading of the city’s Native America Day resolution, prayers, exhibition dances, and songs, with speeches by several Native American leaders. According to census data, the area is home to around 30,000 Native Americans, and the city includes the boundaries of three different nations.

10. BERKELEY POW-WOW AND INDIAN MARKET //BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA

2016 Indigenous Peoples Day Berkley California
Berkley's 2016 Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration

If you miss out on October 9 celebrations, head over to Berkeley, California’s 25th anniversary Indigenous Peoples Day festival, which takes place a little after the day itself on October 14. The annual Pow Wow and Indian Market includes a variety of contests, giveaways, performances, and arts and crafts, including an owl dance contest, a “prettiest shawl” contest, and intertribal dance performances.

Vermont and Maine Are Replacing Columbus Day With Indigenous Peoples' Day

David Ryder/Getty Images
David Ryder/Getty Images

The narrative surrounding Christopher Columbus has shifted in recent years, leading some U.S. states and cities to reconsider glorifying the figure with his own holiday. If the governors of Vermont and Maine sign their new bills into law, the two states will become the latest places to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day, CNN reports.

In 1971, the Uniform Holiday Bill went into effect, officially designating Columbus Day as a federal holiday to be celebrated on the second Monday of October. The holiday was originally meant to recognize the "discovery" of America—a version of history that erases the people already living on the continent when Columbus arrived and ignores the harm he inflicted.

As Columbus's popularity decreases in the U.S., some places have embraced Indigenous Peoples' Day: A day dedicated to Native American culture in history. The holiday is already observed in Seattle, Washington; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Alaska. Earlier this year, Sandusky, Ohio announced they would swap Columbus Day for Voting Day and give municipal workers the election Tuesday of November off instead.

Indigenous Peoples' Day has been celebrated in place of Columbus Day in Vermont for the past few years, but a new bill would make the change permanent. The Vermont state legislature has voted yes on the bill, and now it just needs approval from Governor Phil Scott, which he says he plans to give. If he passes the law, it will go into effect on October 14, 2019 (the date Columbus Day falls on this year).

Maine voted on a similar bill in March, and it gained approval from both the state's Senate and House of Representatives. Like Governor Scott, Maine governor Janet Mills plans on signing her state's bill and making the holiday official.

Regardless of the legal status of Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples' Day celebrations take place across the country every October. South Dakota hosts Native American Day festivities at the Crazy Horse Memorial each year, and in Seattle, Indigenous Peoples celebrations last a whole week.

[h/t The Washington Post]

6 Creative Recycling Efforts From Around the Globe

iStock.com/ElenaSeychelles
iStock.com/ElenaSeychelles

Recycling isn't—and shouldn’t be—limited to separating plastic cartons, junk mail, and tin cans for the garbage collector. This Earth Day, think outside the plastic bin, and brainstorm creative ways to convert or re-purpose old, discarded, or unexpected materials into something new and useful. Don't know where to start? Get inspired by one (or all) of the sustainable organizations and initiatives below.

1. The Shopping Center That Sells Recycled/Upcycled Items

The adage “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” rings true in Eskilstuna, Sweden. The metropolis is home to a shopping center, ReTuna Återbruksgalleria, which only sells upcycled, recycled, or sustainable merchandise. (The name ReTuna Återbruksgalleria combines Tuna, which is a nickname for the city; återbruk, which means “reuse” in Swedish; and galleria, which means mall.)

Patrons can drop off objects they no longer want or need at a designated recycling depot. Items that can be repaired are fixed and re-sold in the mall’s nine shops, which offer customers everything from furniture to clothing items to sporting equipment. Goods that can’t be sold are donated to needy institutions or organizations, or recycled.

2. The Mall That Feeds Its Food Waste To Hogs

A sign outside the Mall of America
iStock.com/Wolterk

The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, is the nation’s largest shopping center—and it’s also vying for the title of “greenest.” In addition to LED parking garage lighting, water-efficient toilets, and thousands of air-purifying plants and trees, the mall annually recycles more than 2400 tons of food waste by donating it to a local hog farm. (If you’re an entrepreneur who’s interested in emulating the MOA’s large-scale food waste strategy, you can check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines for getting started here.)

3. The Nonprofit That Transforms Flip-Flop Flotsam Into Art

Around 8.8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. Soda bottles, grocery bags, and six-pack rings aren’t the only plastic items polluting the world’s waterways and harming fish, turtles, and other animals: In 1997, marine conservationist Julie Church came across a beach in Kenya that was strewn with discarded flip-flops.

Church noticed children making toys from the debris, and convinced local women to collect, wash, and process the flip-flops into colorful art objects. This initiative grew into Ocean Sole, a fair-trade business that today collects flip-flop flotsam from Kenya's beaches and waters and transforms them into plastic sculptures, accessories, and trinkets. Ocean Sole's goal is to recycle 750,000 flip-flops per year, and the organization also provides business opportunities to women living in city slums and remote coastal areas.

4. The Company That Turns Used Diapers Into Usable Items

 
Founded in 1989, Knowaste is a Canadian company that recycles diapers and absorbent hygiene products (AHPs), such as baby diapers, feminine hygiene products, and incontinence pads. They've developed a way to strip them of their plastic and fiber, which they then use to make products like composite construction materials, pet litter, and cardboard industrial tubing.

5. THE ECOLOGICAL NONPROFIT THAT COLLECTS HAIR TO CLEAN UP OIL SPILLS

Work at a beauty salon or own a furry pet? Instead of tossing shorn or shed hair into the trash, donate it to Matter of Trust. The San Francisco-based ecological charity’s Clean Wave program collects hair and fur, and uses it to make oil-absorbing mats and stuff containment booms. Hazmat teams use these all-natural tools to clean up after oil spills, and public works departments use them to keep motor oil drip spills out of waterways.

In addition to large-scale donations from beauty salons, barbershops, and groomers, Matter of Trust also accepts smaller contributions from private individuals. If you’re interested in helping out, visit Matter of Trust’s website, register to participate in the nonprofit’s Excess Access recycling program, and follow the instructions to donate. The program’s need for hair and fur ebbs and flows, depending on the volume of recent donations. But in the case of an emergency oil spill, all donations are welcome. (Cases in point: Matter of Trust’s hair mats and booms were used to help clean up after both the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill in the San Francisco Bay and the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.)

6. The Nonprofit That Re-Purposes Old Crayons Into New Ones

As art supplies go, crayons are relatively cheap, making it all too easy and inexpensive to toss scuzzy, broken, and worn-down wax stubs into the trash and purchase new ones. But crayons are typically made from paraffin wax and aren’t biodegradable—so to keep old art tools from clogging landfills, a Northern California-based nonprofit called The Crayon Initiative collects unwanted crayons from restaurants and schools and melts them down to make fresh ones. Then, they donate the re-purposed goods to children’s hospitals. Family restaurants and schools can find out how to organize crayon donation drives online.

A version of this article first ran in 2017. It has been updated to reflect current data.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER